I couldn’t help it when it happened. I really did try. There is just always so much pressure on Thanksgiving. With your immediate and extended family all gathered together there’s certain behavioral expectations that are placed on you by your parents: Dress in your best, watch your language, respect your Uncles and aunts, be a role model for your little cousins, etc., ect., ect. Overall just don’t embarrass them as my Mom likes to say. As the oldest between my sister Julie and I, as well as the oldest kid at this particular family Thanksgiving I was supposed to be the shining example they said. However I didn’t want to be on my best behavior for them. This year I wanted to be seen in a different light.
I wanted to show my family that I was mature, responsible, grown up. I wanted to be seen as an adult at future family reunions. I wanted that spot at the grown up table. It has been some time now that my eyes have wandered to the adult table at family gatherings. My curiosity peaked as I watch them laugh and drink their wine. I wanted to know what they were talking about, how it felt to partake in the adult festivities. Anything would be better than the dribble of my younger cousins between fists full of food to the face. Tonight was my audition of sorts. This was my chance to prove once and for all I deserved to be at the adult table. At the beginning of the day I would never have expected it was me that was going to ruin Thanksgiving.
My extended family that was visiting on this Thanksgiving included my Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Eleanore. Uncle Jimmy was your stereotypical jolly, overweight Cop with a thick. mustache that had an affinity for shitty magic tricks and too much whiskey at family gatherings. Aunt Eleanore was a stay at home mom with a tired demeanor that had hair grown out long past her hips. She would usually sneak funny cigarettes at various points during these family events and I think we were all supposed to pretend that we didn’t notice she reeked of devil grass every time she came back from “getting some air”. Uncle James and Aunt Eleanore had three kids. All boys. Each one worst than the next. There were the thirteen year old twins, Bill and Ted (Yes named after the 80’s classic. A fact my Uncle Jimmy never failed to bring up and laugh hysterically at) and the youngest Dale, age 10. All three loved to wrestle, roughhouse, break shit, and just plain raise hell. I actually don’t blame my Aunt and Uncle for numbing themselves for these family meetings. Their kids were lost causes.
My job was to watch the kids outside while my mom slaved over the Thanksgiving feast which was easy enough because they were more preoccupied with each other than me. From outside I could smell all the aromas of the feast to come. There was the delightful smell of sweet potatoes in the air, followed not too long after was the hint of my moms famous green bean casserole. I could imagine all of it right before me. The cornbread, the cranberry sauce, all of it begging to put me into that heavenly Thanksgiving food coma. Then there it was: the smell of the turkey coming out of the oven. That mouthwatering aroma of the giant turkey jam packed with Moms homemade stuffing meant the time had come. Dinner time.
The night was almost over and I thought that I had done enough to secure my place at the adult table for the next family holiday. I had pulled out all the stops and it seemed to have worked. The compliments from my aunt and the constant thumbs up or back slaps from my uncle seemed to reassure me of my success. I just had to make it through the last little bit of dinner and I’d be golden.
Unfortunately for me I seemed to underestimate the evil nature of my little cousins. Dale in particular. I had been seated next to the little demon for our thanksgiving feast and for a majority of the time I was able to stomach his disgusting eating habits. The disregard for forks and knives didn’t bother me. His shoeless foot that always seemed to be up on the table at inopportune times right next to me didn’t gross me out, and I was able to ignore the use of his hands as ladles to scoop gravy and cranberry sauce onto his plate. However, I wasn’t ready for Dales next crude surprise.
I didn’t notice when Dale scooped a wad of spit onto his pointer finger. I didn’t even notice when he sat up on his knees and faced me. I noticed when that warm wad of pre teen saliva entered my ear. It wasn’t the fact that I got a wet willy that made me do it. I’ve had wet willies hundreds of times. It was the smell of it all. All of those delicious smells that I had experienced before our Thanksgiving dinner had somehow been twisted and mutated in Dale’s mouth and had come out as something I didn’t recognize. Gone were all of the earlier comfort smells and instead was this vial creation that Dale’s body had created inside of himself.
When the smell hit me I immediately knew what was going to happen. The scent made me gag when it hit my throat and my stomach immediately followed. Shortly after my own mutated creation from Thanksgiving dinner was laid out before me. And on me. I looked up at my sister Julie in front of me who looked at me and then looked down at the retch in front of me. She hesitated for a moment, looked at me in the eyes and then proceeded to vomit her own Thanksgiving dinner onto our kids table. Then one by one the cousins followed suit.
Ted then Bill and finally Dale all discharged their meals one by one onto the table.
When it was all over and the smoked had cleared I finally worked up the nerve to look at the adult table. All four of them stared in disbelief at what they had just witnessed. I could only imagine what the carnage looked like to them from the outside looking in. However their faces and slack jaws seemed to let me know what was going on in their heads.
I took my napkin from my lap and used the little bit that wasn’t covered in vomit to wipe my mouth then politely excused myself. The night was over and all the hard work was for nothing. I don’t think I’ll be getting that adult table invitation when the whole family gets together for Christmas.
I could sense my children’s revelry as I watched them through the window of my office. Their faces lit up as they jumped at every passing wave that came at them. I turned back from the window to sip my coffee. It wasn’t too hot but far from getting cold. It was just perfect. I looked down at my computer to finalize my work for the day. It was always a win to finish up by noon, that way the rest of the day could be spent doing whatever I could dream up.
As I closed my computer I heard the keys jingle at the front door. Finally the wife was home and our little family was now together for the rest of the day. As I got up from my
desk the dog at my feet raised her head with love to see if she was needed.
“Go back to sleep Izzy, we’ll go outside to play soon”
I walked into the kitchen to see Mary putting away her jacket. She was the perfect specimen of beauty, an absolute miracle in human form. There’d always been an air about her that made me feel like a schoolboy again anytime she was in the same room as me.
“Welcome home my love,” I said. A smile as big as I could muster appeared on my face.
“You didn’t miss me already, did you? I’ve only been gone for a few hours.”
She quickly walked over to me and put her arms around me. With a quick glance up to me she kissed me deeply. A kiss that seemed to block out the rest of the world. A kiss that seemed to go on forever yet didn’t seem to last long enough.
"I missed you too, dear.”
As she walked to the back of the house to be welcomed home by our kids I couldn’t help but feel lucky. We’ve been married for 15 years yet the love and passion that we had when we first met was still there. If anything that affection has only grown over the years. While most couple say they experience ups and downs, Mary and I’s relationship seemed to only be on the rise from day one.
I followed to the backyard to partake in the festivities of the day. As I went through the porch doorway I noticed the glass that appeared in my hand. I raised it up to my mouth. Bourbon on the rocks. Blanton’s Original Single Barrel in fact, my favorite. I took another sip and leaned up against the porch. How lucky was I to be standing here watching the love of my life and our two beautiful children in the house that I had worked so hard to build for us. This is all I’ve ever wanted. All I’ve ever needed to get by.
As I basked in my bliss I started to notice the sun going down. I looked down at my watch. The hands on the watch face whirled around the inside of the Rolex as in fast forward. Damn, It couldn’t be time already, could it? It had all seemed to fly by too fast. I took one last sip from my bourbon as the glass disintegrated in my hand. Yep, the simulation was definitely coming to an end. It was always hard to leave but I’d be back. I always get to come back and seem to never miss a thing. A few more weeks pay and maybe I’d be able to stay a little longer next time. All the blood, sweat and tears were worth it after all. I sat on the porch swing as the house behind me started to disappear behind me. I looked down to see my dog Izzy looking up at me from the foot of the swing, her paws laying on me feet. A nice little touch of comfort. My kids continued to play in the ocean as it slowly disappeared in front of them. My dear Mary held one of them as she looked back at me with all of the love in the world in her eyes. I raised up my hand to say goodbye. Goodbye for now anyways. She smiled and they slowly disappeared into the sand.
The usual sense of sadness didn’t overtake me this time. It was a good day. A day that would get me by the coming weeks. Then I’d be back in paradise. I couldn’t wait to be back.
She had been chasing her breathing for what had felt like forever but just couldn’t seem to catch it. The air in the room seemed to have grown too thick to swallow. The taste of the last bit of smoke from the extinguished candles caught the back of her throat. The blackness of the room went on forever as she tried to find the others in her panic, trying to listen for them but there was nothing. Not a sound echoed through the room that held five friends not moments earlier.
She shuffled across the floor towards what she hoped was the door. The decaying wood underneath her hands and knees stuck into her like little needles. Tears fell from her cheeks silently as she felt her hands move over the thick dried paint they had put there earlier in the night. She knew that meant she was out of the circle. The door couldn’t be too much farther. The cabin had not been that big.
Her shaking hand reached up where her mind thought the doorknob was, she was going to make it out. Suddenly the cold breath on the back of her neck told her she was wrong.